Before the summer, the local council put the symbols of the French Republic : “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” on the schools of our small town . More recently, they added the French flag, next to these symbols. Throughout France, all state schools now have these symbols. It is part of an initiative from the government to reinforce the values of the republic following the January 2015 terrorist attacks.
Reinforcing values of the French Republic
The January terror attack against Charlie hebdo shook the French people. They felt their whole value system was being attacked. What made it worst was that the two terrorists behind the attack were born and brought up in France. Somehow, somewhere, the French education system has failed, and the government is trying to reinforce the values of the French republic in the schools. Putting the republican symbols on the walls of the schools is one step toward this goal. It is also an attempt to reinforce unity in a country that is deeply divided. Teachers must also talk about the French values in class and discuss it with the children.
Inaugurating the symbols
Our local town council wanted to mark the occasion by organizing a short ceremony in each school, around these symbols. They initially planned to do it at the end of the day, without the parents. That’s how they did it in the two other schools of the town. But our school council thought it would b a good idea to include as many parents as possible. We asked the town council if we could organize an event with as many parents as possible, on Wednesdays morning, before classes start. Usually there are more parents available on Wednesdays.
So, this morning, parents and children were invited to share a republican breakfast and hear a short speech from our mayor. the children had learned la Marseillaise. They also sang le chant des partisans, an anthem of the French resistance. A few also sang les Allobroges, the anthem of Savoy, our region.
About 30 parents turned up, which is very good. Those I spoke to thought it was a good idea and enjoyed the ceremony. It gives a sense of community one of them said. The event had been planned before the 13th November attack, but the timing was perfect and one of the councilors gave a good word about these.
Now the question is: will reinforcing the values of the republic help integrating those who feel they are on the margin of French society ? I doubt the answer is as simple as that. But it is a start.
The children went back to school on Monday. It went well. They were happy to go back. In the primary school, we learned that there was 140 children in 5 classes. That would make it a bit tight, and more difficult to work, with an average of 28 kids per classroom. The headmistress told us that there was still a possibility for an extra teacher to be nominated on wednesday.
It happened. An extra class will be opened and the new teacher is arriving tomorrow to prepare his/her classroom. That’s good news. It is France, and some of the parents and teachers would have been very unhappy. You regularly hear of demonstrations in schools at this time of the year.
We are in Carmarthen, in West Wales. When we initially thought of coming to Wales for the winter holidays, we were still living in Brittany and we didn’t imagine we would move away so soon and so quickly. But now, we live a long way from Wales. It took us the most part of 2 days to do the 1380 km journey. We travelled through France to Calais on empty motorways. After crossing the channel, we crossed the south of England to Wales on not too busy motorways. We are glad to be here though. I’ve got a few meetings to take here, and two more in North Wales next week.
Even before we first moved to Brittany, I knew that I wanted to learn some Breton language. Living several years in Wales and marrying a Welsh girl was certainly an incentive. I had also learned Welsh, and it couldn’t be that difficult to learn some Breton.
Yet, when we got there, the local Christians were less than keen. Some thought the idea was weird. Many laughed at the idea. Apart from the fact that the majority of Christians in Brittany are not from Brittany, even those Christians who spoke Breton were fairly negative about the idea. The Breton language was on its death-bed. Everyone spoke French anyway, why bother.
Yet, the conviction remained. Even if I would never speak fluently, I was convinced that showing an interest in the people of Brittany and their language would open some doors to the gospel, and it did. After three years, I had made a group of friends and the door was wide open. I had many opportunities to share the gospel, because I had taken the time to learn some of the language and tried to understand the Breton people.
It is just sad that, as far as I am aware, hardly any-one in France seem to see the importance of showing at least some interest in the various local languages, especially those with a significant number of speakers like Breton, Alsatian or Basque.
En Avant de Guingamp is one of the smallest clubs of the French championship, if not the smallest, with a budget of 25 million euros for this season. Guingamp is also a small town of less than 8000 inhabitants. Yesterday, the club played Paris Saint Germain, The club of the French Capital city. With a budget of 490 euros for this season, and an array of star players, PSG was unbeaten this season, until yesterday.
That says a lot about money and talent. You can have all the money and talent in the world, That doesn’t make you invincible. The giant PSG has feet of clay. Yesterday, they played very badly and lost. They were humiliated by a small, rural town. As for us, we are proud of supporting Guingamp.